Where did it all go wrong? Coming into the season, the Philadelphia Phillies, based off all their offseason moves, were primed to move into the thick of the NL East race and get to the postseason for the first time since 2011. They still can, but it’s daunting. FiveThirtyEight has them at an 18 percent chance to make the playoffs. FanDuel has moved its money line on the Phils to a longshot number of +3800.
Some of it has to be chalked up to bad luck. Tommy Hunter, Pat Neshek, Seranthony Dominguez, David Robertson, Adam Morgan, Victor Arano, and Edubray Ramos have seen time on the IL this season…And that’s just out of the bullpen. It can be argued that Gabe Kapler’s managerial style of playing matchups over anything else can contribute to that as a lot of pitchers warm up on any given night, even if they don’t see time in the game, just so Kapler has the option of choosing whatever matchup he wants. Still, Jose Alvarez, Juan Nicasio, Mike Morin, and Blake Parker have held things together enough to get the game to Hector Neris who has converted 21 of 25 save chances.
Another part of it is the front office overvaluing the starting rotation during the offseason. On paper, Aaron Nola, Jake Arietta, Zach Eflin, Nick Pivetta, and Vince Velasquez as a starting five looked pretty good. Jerad Eickhoff and Cole Irvin were available as possible replacements if one of them faltered. Unfortunately, only Nola, who got off to a dreadful start this season, but has pitched well in the last two months, going 6-3 with a 2.98 ERA and 9.96 K/9IP in his last 15 starts. The rest? Well, yeah. Arietta gets credit for pitching through a bone spur in his right elbow.
Eflin started the year well, but has an ERA north of 11 since the beginning of July. All the analytics said Pivetta was due for a breakout season. I’d always said I needed to see it pass the eye test. Save for a four-game stretch in June, the best way to watch him pitch is with a nighttime sleep mask on. Velasquez has bounced between the rotation, the bullpen, and leftfield. Eickhoff and Irvin each had good starts, but have struggled since.
Where it All Went Wrong with Phillies Betting
The main culprit for the Phillies this season has been the offense. It’s easy to lay that blame on Bryce Harper. He became the face of the franchise the second the ink dried on a 13-year, $330M deal. Whatever the expectations were on him to start the season, the fact is, he’s doing what he’s done in his career, save for a couple of stronger, outlying seasons. He’s hitting .250. He’s got a .370 on-base percentage. He should hit 30 homers. His 109 RBI pace would be a career-high. You’d take those power production numbers at the beginning of the season. Jean Segura is hitting .284. J.T. Realmuto has hit .275 with 16 homers, leads the team with 72 runs scored, and has been arguably the most clutch hitter the Phillies have, based on whatever terms you want to use to define “clutch.”
So Phillies phans, here’s the news you didn’t want to hear. Anyone notice who hasn’t been mentioned yet in this article? While you don’t want to place the blame on one player, if the Phillies are going to have any chance of making the postseason, Rhys Hoskins has to step things up. Big Time. It’s easy to fawn over what he has done in his early career. 76 homers in just two full seasons. Leading the Major Leagues in pitches seen. Topping the National League in walks. Couple that with what he meant to the franchise when he came up in August 2017 and the performance he put on, basically being the reason you would go to a game, and he’s essentially been immune to criticism. Well, here’s reality: He’s hitting .210 since the beginning of June. 11 homers and 27 RBI in his last 62 games.
John Mallee was axed as hitting coach for the team’s performance at the plate this season. Will a new voice be enough to make the change? There’s not a lot of time left, but due to an intensely mediocre National League, any team that is even .500 resides within 3.5 games of a playoff spot. The time has to be now though to take command.